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Knee Pain: How Should A Woman Describe This To Her Doctor?

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Dr. Audrey Tsao explains how women should describe their knee pain to their doctor and why keeping a pain journal is helpful. Dr. Tsao currently practices in the western Phoenix metropolitan area in private practice and performs surgical procedures at the Banner Medical Centers in Arizona.

Dr. Tsao:
When patients describe knee pain to me I’m looking for very particular things. One is the type of pain they have. Does it ache? Is it sharp? Is it throbbing? Is the pain constant? Is the pain occasional? Is it intermittent? Those are all things that I need to know.

The other thing I look for is things that make the knee pain better and worse. If your knee pain is worse with all activity, you can’t walk, that’s something that is very important to me to understand how debilitating your knee pain is. If you only experience pain after 18 holes of golf in your knee then that might be a different issue and you may not need knee replacement surgery.

The other things that we look for are pain activities. Do you have pain with just living your life, going to the mailbox, going to the grocery store, cleaning your home, getting down on a low counter, getting down on a low shelf? When the pain is affecting your activities of daily living, that type of pain is a hallmark red flag for a surgeon.

Pain at night that you cannot alleviate by resting it, something that keeps you awake or that awakens you up in the middle of the night – those are all key hallmark factors that most orthopedic surgeons look for because pain of that level is usually something that needs surgical attention.

It is helpful if a patient can clarify within their own mind when the pain occurs, how bad it is, put a point scale on it of 0 to 10; 10 being horrible pains, zero being no pain. Those things give surgeons and doctors very clear picture of what’s going on. The most difficult patient to help is that patient who can’t tell me what’s wrong, how bad it is, and how it’s affected and that particular patient has a very difficult time getting help.

About Dr. Audrey K. Tsao, M.D.:
Audrey Tsao received her engineering degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. She attended medical school at Cornell University and completed her orthopaedic residency at Northwestern University in Chicago. She returned to Johns Hopkins University to complete a fellowship in Arthritis and Adult reconstruction surgery.

Click Here For More Information On Orthopedic Services At Banner Health

Conditions: Arthritis, Osteoarthritis

Related Terms: Knee Replacement, Hip Replacement, Partial Knee Replacement, Total Knee Replacement, Partial Hip Replacement, Total Hip Replacement, Hip Reconstruction, Knee Reconstruction, Minimally Invasive Surgery, Physical Therapy

Health Care Provider: Banner Boswell, Boswell Medical Center, Banner Boswell Medical Center

Locations: Surprise, Glendale, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Phoenix, Sun City, Arizona, 85351

Expert: Dr. Audrey Tsao, Dr. Audrey K. Tsao, M.D., Audrey Tsao, M.D, Orthopedic Surgeon Audrey Tsao, Dr. Tsao

Expertise: Orthopedic Surgery, Arthritis, Osteoarthris, Partial Knee Replacement, Total Knee Replacement, Partial Hip Replacement, Total Hip Replacement, Knee Reconstruction, Hip Reconstruction, Muscle Sparing Surgery

Add a Comment1 Comments

Great article. As a physical therapist I use similar questions: where exactly does it hurt? what makes the pain come on and what makes the pain go away. The more specific you can be when communicating with your doctor or health care professional the better they will be able to help you.

For specific treatment recommendations for common joint conditions visit:


~JTrempe PT, ATC

September 23, 2010 - 2:17pm
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